Interview with Don Luce, Flyers Director of Player Development

Published on May 1st, 2011

With Fran Rubert
Don Luce has spent the last four seasons as the Flyers Director of Player Development.  Luce spent 13 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969 to 1982 recording 225 goals, 329 assists, 364 penalty minutes in 864 games. He spent mostly part of ten seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and after retiring from playing he became their Director of Player Development from 1984 until 2006.

Center Ice: The Phantoms had a good second half of the year. Who were some of the players that have really improved this past year?
Luce: Well there is a number of guys that are getting a great chance to play and as you said they came on the second half of the season like Ben Holmstrom, Zac Rinaldo, (Mike) Testwuide, (Erik) Gustafsson; all of those guys played really well, Wellwood played well. Actually the whole team improved the second half; after the first half maybe they don’t play because they are new players.
Center Ice: They had a fairly young team down there. Was it a matter of them just jelling?
Luce: I think it might be more of them getting adjusting into playing pro hockey; you know a lot of guys are first year pros; they come in but they do not realize how good the American Hockey League is so they have to adjust to that plus everybody is new and they have to adjust to each other too.
Center Ice: I had talked to Luke Pither before and he mentioned he learned that you have to adjust to not just playing fancy. I guess it was a real eye opener for him.
Luce: Yeah, he is a perfect example of a kid coming from junior who finished second or third in the OHL in scoring; he is an offensive player and he gets here and he does not really get a chance to get on the power play and a lot of things that they do at that level; it is almost like to have to relearn your game; you have to be more disciplined and you can’t get away with the things that you did before.
Center Ice: Who are some of the other players that are not at the Phantoms? Like Nic Riopel at Greenvile (EHL) and Brian Stewart. Riopel I believe was playing a lot down there.
Luce: Yes, Riopel is still playing as they are in the playoffs and he has had a pretty good playoffs.
Center Ice: What has been the biggest adjustment for them as goalies?
Luce: I think the biggest adjustment for them is the speed of the shots and the adjustment of players; the bottom end of the players in the American Hockey League are still better than most of the players in juniors. Some of the kids come from teams that do not play a system so they are deeper in their net; shots are harder so they have to use their body more, play their angles differently and to control rebounds. I think that is the biggest adjustment for them going to pro.
Center Ice: You have a mix of players like Ben Holmstrom who comes from college hockey and other players out of juniors. Is that also an adjustment for putting together a team?
Luce: Well I think we are kind of used to having players coming from everywhere; I think it just a matter of you turning pro here whether you are coming from  Europe, the OHL, College or Major Junior; you are all coming together and you have to figure it out playing the pro game.
Center Ice: Who are some of the players you have in the system?
Luce: Well we have (Brendan) Ranford out in the Western Hockey League; he had a good start of the season but finished up slow but he is one of the top twenty scorers. We have Tyler Hostetter who is playing in Erie; he had a very good year but got hurt. We signed Tyler Brown; so we have some players coming.

Don Luce

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